Content strategy: what it is and how to develop one for your business

”Equipping yourself with a precise, clear and structured content strategy is essential for our digital marketing to be successful’‘.

How many times have we heard this sentence? Many, never too many.

Let’s make another one. “There is no content marketing without a content strategy. Or rather, there is no profitable content marketing without a content strategy that prepares, supports, enhances and guides it to success”. This a necessary premise, before delving into the meaning of content strategy, studying its definition, understanding why it is fundamental for our business (whatever it is), and above all how to structure a winning one.

Let’s go in order and analyze why it is one of the fastest growing trends in digital marketing, for this purpose, if your goal is to communicate to your customers effectively, subscribe to the Web Content Manager Course, in this way you will become an expert in images and writing techniques to enrich the contents of your company’s offer!

Content strategy and content marketing

Content strategy and content marketing are often confused in a single axiom, but they are and remain well-defined elements with the first being hierarchically superior to the second. We will see how there can be a content strategy without even content marketing. Why content is king remains a valid dogma, but there is no king without a kingdom that has precise boundaries within which to exercise its hegemony.

Definition of content marketing

Content marketing is the creation and dissemination of useful and valuable content, aimed at a well-defined audience, to attract, acquire, and inducing potential customers to take profitable actions.

Content strategy definition

Content strategy deals with the planning aspects of managing content throughout its lifecycle. It includes the analysis phase, aligning content with business objectives, influencing its development, production, presentation, evaluation, measurement, and archiving. What content strategy is not is the phase of the implementation of the content. Practice development, content management, and dissemination are the tactical outcomes of the strategy, and what needs to be done for the strategy to be effective.

Quoted by Rahel Anne Bailie (content strategist) in an article on his blog, dated 2009 and still active. The two phases are split: that of strategic planning and that, subsequent and regulated by the first, of creation and dissemination of content.

content is always king

Content strategy is what is upstream, it is the planning activity that defines and regulates this process. The difference lies in the fact that the content strategist does not deal with the production of the content but turns his attention to planning them, not limiting himself to defining when they should be published but above all why they should be produced. Each content must be a single brick useful for building our building. And a work of engineering and architecture for which not only workers and concrete are needed but above all else a clear, defined project, divided into several phases. Without precise programming, clear goals to strive for, and measurable objectives to be achieved, the contents will be ineffective and self-referential. They simply won’t “stand”, exactly like a building built in the absence of a project.

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Content strategy and content curation

As evidence of how much and how content strategy is more valuable than content marketing, there are numerous examples of extraordinarily successful strategies that do not even produce their content. In this case, the focus is on content curation [definition: the ability to filter and add value to the content we receive daily from all online sources (search and social media), i.e. the process of selection, collection, organization (and subsequent sharing) of content related to a particular topic or thematic area]. We can offer useful content to potential customers and at the same time to our business objectives. How? By reporting, commenting, and re-elaborating articles written by third parties who thus enter the information cycle of our audience. We will add a contribution capable of highlighting our expertise in this field.

Structuring a winning content strategy

Through a wider marketing action, inbound marketing, or social media marketing, the contents remain central. In defining the strategy, a good content strategist can and must make use of numerous tools and suggestions to identify topics of interest. Among them, in addition to what a paid platform like Hubspot offers, Google offers valuable and free assistance. Across the Adwords keyword planner, it will be possible to know the search volume for the keyword that has been identified as of interest. Google Trends, instead allows you to measure the degree of interest in that keyword in a given period, thus knowing the variations, and realizing any new trends.content strategy clear vision

However, the choice of the specific topics to be covered is a step following many others that precede it. It will be essential to first establish what our marketing actions and objectives are and the target we want to talk to. Subsequently, it will be necessary to identify a message that differentiates us from the competition and which can be the beacon of our communication. Then, thoroughly analyze the market and competitors and identify the most suitable channels to spread our messages. Finally, establish what KPIs need to be measured to understand the progress of our digital strategy.

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Content strategy: define the objectives (specific and measurable)

A content strategist has to confront the objectives indicated by the companies where he works. Often, these goals are rather vague, and complicated to quantify. “I would like to have more visibility”. Would it mean having more visitors to your site? Or, “I would like to increase sales”. Ok, but on which segments? Since we don’t have a magical strategy that works for everything, we need to choose which categories of people to focus our communication on to try to increase sales. It is therefore necessary to discuss and define the objectives in advance in a precise way. After all, it is based on them that every single content and the entire content strategy will have to be oriented. For example, increasing sales in a specific city for our recurring customers is much more clear and more concrete.

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Content strategy: the possible objectives

  • LEAD GENERATION: content and landing pages structured in such a way as to facilitate the compilation of a form through which we can obtain useful information on potential customers.
  • MEDIA/PR: our goal is to get media coverage by creating news that has an organic, viral diffusion.
  • DISTINCTIVE PLACEMENT: our purpose will be defined by communicating what exactly the company does, positioning it precisely in that sector.
  • CUSTOMER SERVICE: our contents will be aimed at clarifying the terms and conditions of the service, the characteristics of the products, and the sales mechanisms.
  • COMMUNITY BUILDING: our editorial plan aims to create a sense of belonging, and identity with the brand through a sharing of values that emerges from a story that is as shared as possible, horizontal, and friendly.

The definition of the target of a content strategy: the buyer personas

Mapping the purchasing process and intervening at each stage with the right content, at the right time, aimed at the right person is the overall and final goal of our content strategy.

content strategy targeting

To understand whether a message is interesting or not, whether the content may or may not be relevant, we will have to understand who is going to get targeted. You have to keep in mind who you are addressing. Identifying your audience, and characterizing it as specifically as possible is the key to outlining a winning content strategy. Information such as age, gender, and educational qualifications is now superfluous for many product categories.

At all levels of marketing, we are observing a decline in the importance of master data in favor of buyer personas. The modern identikit of the potential customer we are addressing is rebuilt through the integration of demographic and especially psychographic data. This means taking into consideration interests, behaviors, purchase reasons, doubts, and fears concerning our service/product or concerning our product sector. In short, information that is not only useful but essential for understanding in which contexts these categories of people are more accessible and willing to hear our message and what makes that message relevant to them.

Identify the differential message of the content strategy

Make a difference to qualify. A successful content strategy cannot ignore the identification of a differential message, a company plus the value that allows us to differentiate ourselves from the competition.

Our differential message will be our beacon: in all of our content, we will have to ask ourselves whether it has been highlighted, or at least implied. And it has to be one and only one. The client is bombarded with numerous advertisements and is looking for someone who can simplify his choice by clarifying what is best, or most immediate, for that need he wants to satisfy. It is not enough to position ourselves solely by the characteristics of our product. They have to be sought by the market and they are not yet monitored by competitors, thus triggering a need and the inability of others to fulfill it. Positioning yourself on the market for a specific category or quality allows you to differentiate yourself from others.

The entire content strategy will be always defined referring to the added value that we guarantee and will aim to associate the brand with that distinctive feature that allows the simplest and most immediate mental association possible for the final consumer.

Content strategy: market and competition analysis

We know we want to differentiate, but how do we do it if we don’t have a full and accurate understanding of what our competitors are doing?
Content strategy is still marketing, and marketing needs a benchmark. A comparative analysis with our direct competitors is essential in identifying differences, strengths, and weaknesses. Not to mention a broader survey of what other similar companies are doing outside of our specific market, to get some helpful ideas for embedding our content marketing plan.

Multi-platform content strategy

A multi-platform content strategy is essential. Stories and content on the net can branch out by expanding, digressing, and deepening, even through hyperlinks (multilinearity). They can migrate across several platforms, and channels, even going from online to offline and vice versa (transmedia).

social networks content

Our final consumer himself is now multi-channel, so multiplying the opportunities of intercepting him can only be one of our primary objectives. It will be necessary to remember that each channel has the characteristics that define it, the particularities that need to be taken into account when defining the strategy, by designing content capable of intercepting and engaging the audience that uses it. What will be good for Facebook is unlikely to be good for LinkedIn, or Twitter. And vice versa. The topics will be different, and the communication model adopted on the different platforms will be different.

Ignoring this aspect and republishing the same content on every different digital channel will only condemn our editorial plan to irrelevance.

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Organic diffusion and promoted content

A good web content editor is well aware of having to follow the guidelines provided to him by the content strategist regarding the creation and dissemination of his content. It will also be essential, already in the development phase of the strategy, to define a budget to be allocated to sponsored content (promoted content). Entrusting your editorial schedule to organic distribution alone may be very restrictive. Social advertising allows you to accurately define the audience that you can reach. In addition, knowing right from the start which content categories to invest in to guarantee the “push” necessary to establish ourselves and get us closer to our business objectives simplifies the process.

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